Album Review: It's Dark and Hell Is Hot by DMX
by Rapjoint Lagos
It's Dark and Hell Is Hot is the debut album by American rapper DMX. It was released on May 19, 1998, by Def Jam Recordings and Ruff Ryders. It was supported by four singles—"Get at Me Dog", "Stop Being Greedy", "Ruff Ryders Anthem" and "How's It Goin' Down", in order of release—and their accompanying music videos.
It primarily includes production from Dame Grease (13 tracks) and PK (8 tracks), in addition to production from Irv Gotti and Lil Rob (2 tracks), Younglord (1 track; add.), and Swizz Beatz (1 track). The album is widely considered a classic among hip hop fans and critics.
It would be an understatement to say that DMX comes from humble beginnings. The details of his background seem more like a movie plot than an actual life. As a kid, he was abused by his mother and dropped off at a reform school without warning. He became addicted to crack before he was old enough to get a driver's license. Once, he was jumped and beaten within an inch of his life—all over a crime he didn't commit.
These experiences are bound to harden anyone who lives through them, and that's exactly what X reflects from the start of It's Dark. When you listen to the album, you don't just hear someone putting words together. Instead, you hear a man who has been imprisoned by his struggles and is fighting his way to freedom.
DMX, came out to be the most darkest album of Hip Hop in 1998 to go with his famous raspy voice, "It's Dark and Hell is Hot". 1998 was great year in Hip Hop and this album pretty much climbs the mountain of the best. The "Intro" starts off with DMX talking somebody (apparently to himself with a deeper voice), then it starts off slow with a badass beat. DMX rips the track with his voice, pistol-whipping rhymes, and with straight passion. The next song is "Ruff Ryders' Anthem", the most known song of the album. Swiss Beatz spanks the music with a very snaring horn that makes you picture hummers and machine guns. The bass shakes the track along with DMX memorable chorus and lyrics. A truly hard-ass track, "Ruff Ryders' Anthem" is DMX's best club-banger. "Fuckin' Wit' D" is another hardcore song. DMX, yet again, kills the rhymes with the hard grunting passion. "Look Thru My Eyes" puts emphasis on the darkness in this track. It's sad, rainy, and dooming, which was what the album's vibe. The next track is possibly the album's most hardcore-yet-jumping: "Get At Me Dog". Its instrumental resembles a '70's soul sample. Plus Sheek Louch from the LOX sings the chorus with imitating power. The highlight of the song was DMX. His lyrics straight-up whoops the track's ass cuz he sounds more of battling than rapping.
To speed it up, "Let Me Fly", "Stop Being Greedy", and "ATF" are other dark and political songs that should be highlights of the CD. "I Can Feel It" contains a strong sample of Phil Collins's song "In the Air Tonight". It's another sad and passionate song that really speaks to your heartstrings about your pains and struggles that you spit. "Crime Story" brings out a great, deep, and dark lyrical shrine to DMX. He narrates his experience as he dodges cops and blows his enemies to death with a bomb strapped to his chest. "The Convo" is another great lyrical performance about DMX talking to Him (I respect the Lord enough to call himself Him). As he raps/talks to Him, he gets pissed off cuz he though He wasn't there for him. At the end, he finally understands how He helped his style and life when he spits the most passionate verse at the end of the song. Two songs that really standout are "Damien" and "How It's Goin' Down" cuz they got touching lyrics. "Damien" is DMX's best story-telling tale. He speaks to an apparent "friend" that has the same name of the Devil's many. The beat in grim as hell, almost like a horror film. In the track, Damien offers X a chance as the "realest nigga". Damien appears to be the human version of crime since everything he tells DMX to do is murdering. DMX keeps up a good flow while doing this; very professional.
"How It's Goin' Down" is dark-loving hood romance piece. It inherits groovy new jack traits from songs such as Brandy's "I Wanna Be Down" and pleading-a-girl lyrics like Biz Markie's "You Say He's Just A Friend". It's an exploring song that ponders about the love ones that you would love to notify and express. DMX comes with creative lyrics with a chorus that is heart-jerking and warming once you put it to a love one.
Many fans took notice, as the quality of X's debut was matched by its commercial success. It's Dark debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200, selling 251,000 copies. The album's success spurred one of the greatest runs from a superstar in hip-hop. X would go on to become the first rapper to have two No. 1 albums in the same year after he released Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood later on in 1998. Hit singles, big tours, movie roles and platinum plaques all followed thereafter. From 1998 to 2003, X was a force to be reckoned with.
At a time when the rap industry was fixated on luxury, X represented hardship and offered hope to those living through it. He infused new life into hip-hop when the genre was still reeling from the deaths of Biggie and 2Pac. And the conflicting layers of It's Dark And Hell is Hot proved that DMX is an enigma. We don't fully understand him, but his work grips us nonetheless.
Ruff Ryders' Anthem
Get At Me Dog
How It's Goin' Down
Stop Being Greedy
I Can Feel It